Jun 5, 2012
4 notes

Foucault on the panoptic dream building as a

diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system: it is in fact a political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use.

D.W. Rodowick on diagrammatics

The most succinct way of defining the diagram is to call it a map of power – diagrammatics is the cartography of strategies of power. As such, the diagram produces an historical image of how strategies of power attempt to replicate themselves in forms of surveillance, documentation, and expression on one hand, and in the spatial organization of collective life on the other.

Deleuze offers a rhizomatic / nomadic movement to the panopticon:

The diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a
cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. [Furthermore the] diagram is a map, or rather several superimposed maps. And from one diagram to the next, new maps are drawn. Thus there is no diagram that does not also include, besides the points which it connects up, certain relatively free or unbound points, points of creativity, change and resistance, and it is perhaps with these that we ought to begin in order to understand the whole picture.

Greg Elmer follows this with:

Taking a diagrammatic approach to panoptic surveillance,
conversely requires us to conceptualize the manner in which modes of data accumulation, storage, and processing are networked in an increasingly dispersed and automated infoscape. […] In the
realm of contemporary infomatics the diagram therefore affords us the
possibility of tracing the everyday data-economy, in which habits, routines, rhythms, and flows are digitized, coded and diagnosed for the purposes of control.


In large part, the diagrammatic power of the panopticon lies in its claims to continuity and automation, that is, its ability to function without the need for direct supervision and intervention

On Intransigent Familiarity

As a predictive technique, then, the panoptic diagram calls upon an all-too familiar aggregated past to subtly limit access to different futures. […]

The panoptic diagram, in other words, only disciplines consumers if they actively seek out the unfamiliar, the different, the previously unseen, purchased, or browsed. […]

We are continuously solicited, either with a ‘more of the same’ product, or yet more inquiries meant to be cross-referenced to monitor new trends, changes in taste, or simply to refine the effectiveness and precision of the diagrammatic process itself. As a consequence, we may soon find it compellingly easy and convenient to consume ‘more of the same’, or conversely, increasingly more difficult to find something different.

All quotes from Greg Elmer’s (2003) “A diagram of panoptic surveillance” in New Media & Society.

Nonstop Maoist hymns, patriotic power ballads & shrill exhortations at all hours. Toronto-based PhD Student in Communication & Culture @ Ryerson/York.

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